Monday, February 9, 2009

Letter to Michael Crichton - Next

November 21, 2006

Dear Dr. Crichton,

I’m happily looking forward to the release of Next. This is the 15th novel and 20th book you have published under your own name. I wonder how you feel when a book of yours is released. Has the experience changed for you over the years? Do you feel excited, and do you look forward to the responses? Is it a distraction from whatever you’re working on currently? Do you dread it somewhat because it means appearing in public? On 20/20 you mentioned that you would never appear in public if you could help it. You’re only making three public appearances for Next, and they are all on the East Coast, to the great dismay of the members of message board on your website.

One reason I’m looking forward to the release of Next is because the message board badly needs some fresh meat (and fresh tofu for the vegetarians). I’ve been on the message board for almost two years. It’s become an online home and I’ve made several friends through the board. A few have become very good friends who I talk with on the phone from time to time. It’s a wondrous thing that people from all over the world can find a point of focus that allows them to connect and bond with each other. And the administrator does an outstanding job moderating the discussions and making the board a delight place to visit.

But the most valuable thing about the message board is how it has helped me to focus my writing. It gives me a chance to write things others can read and respond to, and that has sparked my writing in other venues as well. The message board has an encouraging and inspiring atmosphere, and I bless you for providing it.

My favorite of all your books is Travels, and I understand you are writing a sequel. Since Travels was released in 1988, it would be nice if the sequel could be released 20 years later in 2008.

Though I have to tell you there was one part of Travels I did not like. It is on p. 228 (hardcover edition) when you were directing a film and you took away that poor little rattlesnake’s parasol and it almost got cooked by the sun.

You bully.

Respectfully yours,

Marla Warren

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Letter to Michael Crichton - State of Fear

April 17, 2005

Dear Dr. Crichton,

On State of Fear and the State of Science

Like all your novels, I bought State of Fear the day it came out, and enjoyed it greatly. One of my favorite parts was the annotated bibliography. I read mostly non-fiction, so when I read a fiction book or see a feature film, I start looking for non-fiction books related to the subject. I just finished Beckerman’s A Poverty of Reason and am currently reading Wildavsky’s Searching for Safety. For me, fiction is like dessert—it’s nice to have from time to time, but I can’t sustain myself on it.

What surprises me is how some people can’t discuss State of Fear or global warming calmly. They get angry at any questioning of global warming—as though it is a foregone conclusion. I myself think it’s healthy to have my assumptions challenged on a regular basis. It seems rather than utilizing science as an independent and objective basis on which to formulate policy, it has for many become a tool to justify and promote an already reached conclusion. A professor of mine retired earlier than he had planned, giving as his reason that “I cannot stomach what passes for knowledge these days.”

A few years ago, I taught a survey of science course at a tech-vocational college. For most of the students, this was probably the last science class they would have. What I wanted them to take away from it was a good understanding of the scientific method, some healthy skepticism, and a few critical thinking skills. The first night I wrote on the board, “How do you know what you think you know?” I held up a bottle of Echinacea and asked the class what it does. One student replied, “It strengthens your immune system.” Then I read the disclaimer on the bottle—“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” I went on to talk about double-blind testing, statistical evidence versus anecdotal evidence, and how correlation does not equal causality. In later classes, we examined the problems of bias in research, and one of their projects was to come up with a hypothesis and design a study that would objectively test it. One thing I required was that any Internet sources had to be approved. People don’t often realize that the Internet is a playground for conspiracy theorists. I stressed that people should not hesitate to question anything, and should demand evidence for conclusions being presented as facts. When the course was done, one student told me, “You’ve changed the way I look at the world.”

I admire you greatly for the way you challenge your readers and make them think. That’s not just entertainment—that’s an invaluable service to our society.

Everybody has an agenda except you and me. And possibly my cats.

Respectfully yours,

Marla Warren

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Letter to Michael Crichton - Travels

(I wrote three letters to Michael Crichton. After the first letter, he sent me a gracious note and an autographed photo. I didn't expect a response to the other letters as he was a very busy man.)

March 17, 2005

Dear Dr. Crichton,

This letter is not about State of Fear. I’m sure you’re hearing quite enough about it these days. But I have to say thank you for the annotated bibliography. I work at a bookstore in Illinois, and I was able to order some of the books for our store. State of Fear is selling well here.

Working in a bookstore is blissful, and one of the best things is being able to promote my favorite writers. When customers who have read The Da Vinci Code ask me for recommendations, I suggest Timeline. I’ve sold several copies of Timeline this way. One of the customers came back and bought State of Fear. I’ve also sold several copies of Travels.

Reading your books has always been a pleasure—reading Travels was a joy. First of all, because of the many places you have been. The travel writing section of the bookstore is one of my favorites, because I have not yet been able to travel as much as I would like. (Although my copy of Timeline did get to go to Spain and Morocco with a friend of mine.) I found the tales of your adventures fascinating and often very humorous. You are much funnier than I would have guessed from your fiction. I found myself laughing out loud several times while reading Travels.

But what impressed me most about the book is your passion for life and for ideas. I find that delightful. It’s a quality too few people have. I admire the way you challenge yourself, and bravely explore not only the outer world, but your own inner world as well. I love the candor with which you see yourself and the willingness to write honestly about it. I think Travels is a very courageous book. It’s clear from reading your other books that you possess great intelligence. Travels shows that you also possess wisdom. Those two things don’t go together nearly often enough.

I read Travels when it came out in 1988, and I read it again recently. I was surprised at how deeply I was affected by it this time. It was as though I had not read it before. But I was 25 when I first read the book, and I am 42 now. Perhaps a little maturity has brought some perspective.

I am planning on naming my next cat in your honor. Current cats are named Akira (after Kurosawa) and Asimov (after Isaac Asimov). I look forward to reading more of your writing. May your dreams come true.

Respectfully yours,

Marla Warren

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

MacWorld tribute to Michael Crichton

Here's a tribute from MacWorld. Michael Crichton said on several occasions that he was a Mac user. The tribute was written by someone who exchanged emails with Michael:

I was deeply saddened to read of the passing of Michael Crichton, at the way-too-young age of 66. Michael was an amazingly talented individual, as evidenced by his background—a Harvard-educated medical doctor who wrote The Andromeda Strain while still in medical school, and then wrote (and directed the movie version of) The Great Train Robbery...

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at: